Make Your Own Genealogy Book / Chart

Outlines the materials and rules necessary to organize and maintain a genealogy book or chart; also includes how to record data properly and tips on where to get started researching

Is there royalty in your bloodline? As interest in genealogy grows, the resources available are multiplying right along with it. Information is more widely accessible than ever before, but for beginners it can be a little confusing exactly how or where to start.

The key to successfully discovering your roots is preparation and organization. The first thing one must do before stepping into the world of family history is make a notebook. Supplies can be obtained from a discount store or office warehouse. You will need: a three-ring notebook, dividers and/or tabs, pedigree charts, notebook paper, plastic slipcovers, pen and pencil, plastic pouch, and magnifying glass.

1. Purchase a three-ring binder. You will be surprised at how quickly you accumulate information, so do not skimp on size or quality. Make sure the metal rings meet evenly together, and clasp tightly.

2. Dividers and tabs: Dividers are necessary to separate the different family lines you research. You still need dividers to separate the different sources from where you glean your information.

3. Pedigree charts: Pedigree charts are available in Family History Kits and from genealogical organizations. These forms are a lateral representation of your family tree. Your name--along with your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents--can be listed with space permitted for personal information such as birth, death, and marriages.

4. Notebook paper is essential for jotting down notes and references. It is also necessary to create a research log (with names, dates, and sources researched) to prevent duplication of your inquiries.

5. Plastic sheet covers are sheets that are sealed around both sides and the bottom so that documents or photographs may be slipped inside from the top. Charts and computer printouts also benefit since no holes have to be punched into the paper. Make sure your sheet covers have pre-punched holes and fit correctly inside your notebook.

6. A sharp No. 2 pencil or quality ink pen that will not smear is essential for note taking. Notes should be written neatly the first time so that they do not have to be redone. Printing is preferred over cursive because it is easier to read.

7. A small plastic pouch with a zipper is a handy accessory to have in your notebook. This item totes your writing utensils and also can carry change necessary for copy machines and order forms.

8. A small magnifying glass is a helpful tool when searching through old or illegible documents.

A genealogy notebook is best kept in alphabetical order. Write each surname on a tab or divider. Behind each section, add paper, pedigree charts (filled out as far as possible to the best of your knowledge), and a few plastic slipcovers. Do this behind every divider to create a unit for each family line. Do not forget to add a research log in the beginning of your notebook to keep track of your work and expenditures.

Once organized, familiarize yourself with the written formats used by genealogists. In most instances, you will find names, dates, and places written the same way. Names are recorded with the last name first, followed by the first name and middle initial. Nicknames are often added last in parentheses (for example: Doe, John A).

Dates are written with the day first, followed by the first three letters of the month, and then by the complete year (for example: 25 Dec 1999). Places have a preferred format as well. First listed is the city or town, followed by the county, and then the state and country (for example: Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA).

Once you have prepared your notebook and recorded all the information available from your relatives and personal records, you are ready to begin searching national and state archives to find your distant relatives. Again, preparation is the key. Study and learn about the different resources available to family historians and where to get them.

Some of the most helpful resources available are probate records, wills, periodicals and newspapers, and census information; cemetery, military, birth, death, and marriage records; and christening, baptism, and congregation indexes. Do not forget the Internet with its genealogical sites, clubs, and message boards. Many churches and states are now making available online many of the records mentioned above. These wonderful opportunities save time and money and are good ways to meet others searching for the very same family members you are.

With a little groundwork and a lot of enthusiasm, you can be your own family historian. It is an exciting hobby and will be of value to you and generations to come as you discover your ancestral roots.

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